Book Bites: Bookworm Beckons!

In just a couple of weeks, we’re taking our show on the road and heading to Jersey Village High School for our annual Bookworm Festival for emerging readers. It’s been so rewarding to watch the festival grow over the years—and equally rewarding to immerse ourselves in the always-delightful world of the picture book. This week, we’re featuring a pair of efforts by Bookworm authors in our list of recent favorites. Check the full author lineup on the festival website to see who else will be in attendance, then come join us on February 1! It’s going to be a wonderful morning.

Of course, we’ve been reading plenty of other books, too—including something new by one of our favorite YA authors and a powerful novel. So whether you’re here for picture books, novels, or something in between, read on!


Ages 3-5

The Old Truck by Jerome Pumphrey and Jarrett Pumphrey

On a small farm, an old truck gets older and a young girl grows up. This lovely picture book, illustrated in muted tones with handmade stamps, is a testament to the value of hard work, persistence, and dreams.
—Cathy

READ this lovely book for its fun, retro design and gentle, sweet message.
PASS if you think that perseverance and hard work are overrated.
Order your copy on our website.

Ages 4-8

Small in the City by Sydney Smith

A child navigates a city in winter and offers the reader some advice: which streets to walk down, which places to avoid. By paying close attention, readers will begin to realize that the child is speaking to someone in particular. Arresting art and a narrative twist make this a very special picture book.
—Cathy

READ because this one of the most moving, beautiful picture books we’ve seen in a long time.
PASS if … we honestly can’t think of a reason to pass. 
Order your copy on our website.
Read a Q&A with Sydney on our blog.
Meet him at our annual Bookworm Festival on February 1!

Just Like Me by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

In this picture book of poems, Brantley-Newton has created a book that reflects many experiences of girlhood—excitement, annoyance, joy and belonging. This is a picture book in which every girl can find herself.
—Cathy

READ with a group of girls—this book encourages readers to find themselves in its pages.
PASS if your girl group recently went the way of the Spice Girls. (Don’t worry—you’ll get back together in 15-20 years.)
Order your copy on our website.
Read a Q&A with Vanessa on our blog.
Then, meet her at our annual Bookworm Festival on February 1!

Ages 13 & Up

Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles

Del, a high school junior with a reputation, joins a purity pledge class at a church as a means to get closer to Kiera, a girl he's been crushing on for years. A fellow member of the group, Jameer, offers to help Del find opportunities to be alone with Kiera in return for some favors. Del ignores the fact that Kiera is not interested in him and doesn't recognize his own deceptive practices for what they are until life starts falling apart for him. Many themes are covered in this book including teen pregnancy, extremely conservative religion, separation of church and state, unwanted advances, LGBTQ relationships and lack of acceptance, honesty, and friendship.
—Kimberly

READ because this wonderful book tackles toxic masculinity head-on, while also serving up plenty of laughs. It will make the world a better place.
PASS if you’re one of those dudes who sprawls out over three seats on the subway. Scratch that: You should definitely read this book if you do that.
Order your copy on our website.

Adult Fiction

Run Me to Earth by Paul Yoon

What happens to innocent civilians in a country overrun by conflicting sides in a war? What can they salvage from their experiences to enable them to be functioning members of their own society or another? As teenagers, an orphaned brother and sister, along with their friend, become volunteer workers at a field hospital in Northern Laos during the 1960s. They run errands on their motorbikes, dodging unexploded bombs, and help with patient care until the U.S.-supported bombing of the country becomes so intense that they have to evacuate the hospital. In the process, they become separated and spend the next decades in very different circumstances. Yoon’s spare writing casts a luminous envelope around the hard-to-imagine stories of non-combatants whose lives are twisted into shapes that are seemingly meaningless. Brilliant writing makes this sad story beautiful.
—Alice

READ because this beautifully-written book will give your empathy muscles the best kind of workout.
PASS  if you don’t believe in “the transformative power of literature.” Otherwise, Miriam Toews says you’ve got to read this—just look at her blurb on the cover.
Order your copy on our website.